Sensory table activities are always my kiddos top choice during center time. The key to getting them there week after week is by changing out the filler and tools frequently to keep the learning fresh and engaging.
When it comes to filling your sensory table, the ideas are only limited to your imagination. Get creative and think about what you would have liked to play and explore with as a child. This is your opportunity to do something that you always wanted to do.
Think about what you want your outcome to be before changing out the sensory table. If you are wanting children to experiment with volume, then make sure that you include a variety of containers in different sizes. Include items such as acorns so children can discover that it takes more popcorn kernels than acorns to fill the containers.
Print the list below and I challenge you to changing out your sensory table weekly or biweekly.
Start by picking one or two types of fillers. Enhance the learning by picking items from the scoops and containers list and spice it up even more by adding an item from the extras list.
Are you clenching your teeth just thinking about center time management?
Inhale everything is going to be OK.
There are many different ways to mange center time, but today I’m going to only talk about one.
Over the years I have tried several different center management systems, and this is the on that just seems to stick.
First let me say that I have center time and small group time and they mean two totally different things to me.
Our Center Time is a free choice time, how ever I do limit the number of children that can be in one center at a time. Also, I don’t worry myself about making sure every child goes to every center each week.
Since it is a free choice center time it doesn’t matter to me that a child visits the same center for days in a row. It tells me that they are investigating and expanding their play daily.
The children can choose from 17 learning centers daily and they can spend one hour of uninterrupted play exploring centers of their choice.
So how do they flow in and out of these centers?
We start by having children pick and plan what they will be doing in an area.
This begins with our center sticks. There are only enough sticks for the amount that is allowed in each center. Example 5 children can work in the block center, so there are only 5 block center sticks available for children to choose from.
Once children have chosen areas, they are then free to change and move around freely.
Children have learned to negotiate where they can work and play by center signs and necklaces.
Children are visually able to see how many children can be in any given area and they also know if a center is open to work in by the available necklaces.
How do you figure out how many children can play in each center?
I like to place large hula hoops in a center to determine how many children can work there this gives me a visual that allows me to see if children have enough personal space to work and play.
Do children clean up before they move to a new area?
If a child is working in an area independently then yes, they clean up what they were using.
If a child was working with a group of friends to build a structure and they are done playing there and their friends are still working, then we encourage the child that wants to leave to pick up a few items that no one is using any more before they move on.
What if you want to use a table for more than one activity?
We will place a strip of masking tape down the middle of the table. Children know that items on each side of the tape are intending for different activities.
What if a child really wants to work in an area but there are no necklaces left?
In our really popular areas like the paint easel we have children sign up on a waiting list. They can then go to a center that is available and we will call them when a child is done.
Editable Center Signs
You can edit the amount of children that you would like to have in each center.
Make necklaces to match for each center. This will allow you to identity centers faster as children move freely around the room.
Picking Center Sticks
We dismiss our little's after small group so they are at their small group tables. We dismiss children by having them pick the learning center that they would like to work in. As a child picks a center that stick is placed back into the bucket and the children know that center is no longer available.
All these time chunks that I talk about in my Instagram stories have caused a lot of questions about what does my daily schedule look like and how do I find the time to get all of it in.
First let’s start off by saying that our routine is the same every day, but the time that we do it is flexible based on the needs of my students on any particular day.
Morning Worktime or Table Top Activities
This is the time of the day as the children arrive. My children come in at random times based on the need of their family. So, with that being said I like to have activities out for the children to do that doesn’t require me to open up my whole classroom since we will only be at this time for a small portion of time.
I like these activities to be activities that children can do on their own with little to no help from me. They are usually activities that we have already done before, and this time gives them the opportunity to build on their prior knowledge and extend their own learning through play.
Worktime or Center Time
Center time is the time of the day that all areas of the classroom are open for children to explore and interact with their friends for long period of time that is uninterrupted.
During this time of the day we also set up learning provocations for the children to explore, usually in the area of sensory play, process art, play dough and writing activities.
Small Group Activities
This time of the day is only for 15 to 20 minutes a day of teacher directed activities based on children learning goals.
Still struggling with that perfect schedule?
Sample Daily Schedule
Editable Sample Daily Schedule
I'm Tami Sanders creator of Learning and Teaching with Preschoolers, a blog to help teachers create magical moments for the young.
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